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United States? I say attempting, for they have been prevented from bringing the question fairly before the court, and that by an act of that very majority in Congress who now upbraid them for not making that appeal; of that majority, who, on a motion of one of the members in the other House, from South Carolina, refused to give to the act of 1828 its true title—that it was a protective and not a revenue act. The State has never, it is true, relied upon that tribunal, the Supreme Court, to vindicate its reserved rights; yet they have always considered it as an auxiliary means of defence, of which they would gladly have availed themselves to test the constitutionality of protection, had they not been deprived of the means of doing so by the act of the majority. Notwithstanding this long delay of more than ten years, under this continued encroachment of the Government, we now hear it on all sides, by friends and foes, gravely pronounced that the State has acted precipitately—that her conduct has been rash That such should be the language of an interested majority, who, by means of this unconstitutional. and oppressive system, are annually extorting millions from the South, to be bestowed upon other sections, is not at all surprising. Whatever impedes the course of avarice and ambition will ever be denounced as rash and precipitate; and had South Carolina delayed her resistance fifty instead of twelve years, she would have heard from the same quarter the same language; but it is really surprising that those who are suffering in common with herself, and who have complained equally foud of their grievances; who have pronounced the very acts which she asserted within her limits to be oppressive, unconstitutional, and ruinous, after so long a struggle—a struggle longer than that which preceded the separation of these States from the mother country—longer than the period of the Trojan war—should now complain of precipitancy! No, it is not Carolina which has acted precipitately; but her sister States, who have suffered in common with her, have acted tardily. Had they acted as she has done; had they performed their duty with equal energy and promptness; our situation this day would be very different from what we now find it. Delays are said to be dangerous ; and never was the maxim more true than in the present case. . . . . The bill violates the Constitution, plainly and palpably, in many of its provisions, by authorizing the President, at his pleasure, to place the different ports of this Union on an unequal footing, contrary to that provision of the Constitution which declares that no preference shall be given to one port over another. It also violates the Constitution by authorizing him, at his discretion, to impose cash duties in one port while credit is allowed in others; by enabling the President to regulate
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commerce, a power vested in Congress alone; and by drawing within the jurisdiction of the United States courts powers never intended to be conferred on them. As great as these objections are, they become insignificant in the provisions of a bill which, by a single blow—by treating the States as a mere lawless mass of individuals—prostrates all the barriers of the Constitution. I will pass over the minor considerations, and proceed directly to the great point. This bill proceeds on the ground that the entire sovereignty of this country belongs to the American people, as forming one great community; and regards the States as mere fractions or counties, and not as integral parts of the Union ; having no more right to resist the encroachments of the government than a county has to resist the authority of a State; and treating such resistance as the lawless acts of so many individuals, without possessing sovereignty or political rights. It has been said that the bill declares war against South Carolina. No. It decrees a massacre of her citizens! War has something ennobling about it, and, with all its horrors, brings into action the highest qualities, intellectual and moral. It was, perhaps, in the order of Providence that it should be permitted for that very purpose. But this bill declares no war —except, indeed, it be that which savages wage—a war, not against the community, but the citizens of whom that community is composed. But I regard it as worse than savage warfare ; as an attempt to take away life under the color of law, without the trial by jury, or any other safeguard which the Constitution has thrown around the life of the citizen 2 It authorizes the President, or even his deputies, when they may suppose the law to be violated, without the intervention of a court or jury, to kill without mercy or discrimination | It has been said by the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. Grundy) to be a measure of peace | Yes, such peace as the wolf gives to the lamb–the kite to the dove | Such peace as Russia gives to Poland, or death to its victim A peace, by extinguishing the political existence of the State, by awing her into an abandonment of the exercise of every power which constitutes her a sovereign community. It is to South Carolina a question of self-preservation ; and I proclaim it that, should this bill pass, and an attempt be made to enforce it, it will be resisted, at every hazard— even that of death itself. Death is not the greatest calamity ; there are others still more terrible to the free and brave, and among them may be placed the loss of liberty and honor. There are thousands of her brave sons who, if need be, are prepared cheerfully to lay down their lives in defence of the State and the great principles of constitutional liberty for which she is contending. God forbid that this should become necessary !
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It never can be, unless this government is resolved to bring the question to extremity, when her gallant sons will stand prepared to perform the last duty—to die nobly. . .
In the same spirit we are told that the Union must be preserved, without regard to the means. And how is it proposed to preserve the Union ? By force 2 Does any man in his senses believe that this beautiful structure—this harmonious aggregate of States, produced by the consent of all—can be preserved by force 2 Its very introduction will be certain destruction to this Federal Union. No, no You cannot keep the States united in their constitutional and federal bonds by force. Force may, indeed, hold the parts together, but such union would be the bond between master and slave—a union of exaction on one side and of unqualified obedience on the other. That obedience which, we are told by the Senator from Pennsylvania (Mr. Wilkins), is the Union | Yes, exaction on the side of the master; for this very bill is intended to collect what can be no longer called taxes—the voluntary contribution of a free people—but tribute—tribute to be collected under the mouths of the cannon Your customhouse is already transferred to a garrison—and that garrison with its batteries turned, not against the enemy of your country, but on subjects (I will not say citizens), on whom you propose to levy contributions. Has reason fled from our borders ? Have we ceased to reflect? It is madness to suppose that the Union can be preserved by force. I tell you plainly that the bill, should it pass, cannot be enforced. It will prove only a blot upon your statute-book, a reproach to the year, and a disgrace to the American Senate. I repeat, it will not be executed ; it will rouse the dormant spirit of the people, and open their eyes to the approach of despotism. The country has sunk into avarice and political corruption, from which nothing can arouse it but some measure, on the part of the government, of folly and madness, such as that now under consideration. Disguise it as you may, the controversy is one between power and liberty; and I tell the gentlemen who are opposed to me, that, as strong as may be the love of power on their side, the love of liberty is still stronger on ours.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS (1767–1848)
THE OLD MAN ELOQUENT
HE Adams family has played a great part in American public T life. Through four generations it has given us orators and statesmen of prominence and ability. Political opponents have declared that no member of the family ever showed more than respectable natural talent, but certainly it was talent of the kind that the American people recognized and appreciated, since they raised two members of the family to the highest position in their gift. John Adams, while not ranking with our most capable orators, did so with our leading patriots. His standard of Americanism is fitly expressed in his memorable words of 1774: “Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish with my country, is my unalterable determination.” The standing of his son, John Quincy Adams, as an orator, is indicated by the title of “Old Man Eloquent,” given him in his later days; while his grandson and great-grandson, Charles Francis and Charles Francis, Jr., possessed rich gifts in the same field.
Omitting selections from the elder Adams, we here deal with his accomplished and able son, who, like him, became President of the United States. His subsequent career differed from that of our other ex-presidents. Instead of withdrawing from political life, he returned to Congress in 1831, and remained a member of the House until his death in 1848.
“In every respect,” says Seward, “he was a model legislator. He was constantly at his post, and few members surpassed him in strict attention to duty and power of endurance.” His most memorable service was his continued presentation to Congress of petitions for the abolition of slavery, offered by members of the Anti-slavery party. Efforts to check him in this were in vain. He persistently maintained
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and exercised the right of petition. The House adopted a rule that no petition relating to slavery should be read, printed, or debated, but Adams was not thus to be defeated. He held his ground with unwavering firmness against the bitterest opposition, presenting the petitions one by one, sometimes to the number of two hundred a day, and insisting that the House should act on each separate petition. He died in harness. On the 21st of February, 1848, he was stricken with paralysis while in his seat at the Capitol. He died on the 23d, with these notable last words: “This is the last of earth. I am content.”
A EULOGY OF LAFAYETTE
[Lafayette, the distinguished French noble who came to the struggling American colonies while still in boyhood to fight with them for freedom, who was the friend and confident of Washington, who commanded the National Guard of France in the Revolution of his own country, and who in 1824 was received with the highest honor and enthusiasm in the United States, came to his last day on May 20, 1834. In Congress at that date there was none who knew him better or was more fitted to speak for America in his memory than John Quincy Adams. From his oration on this subject, delivered in Congress on December 31, 1834, we give the eloquent peroration.]
Pronounce him one of the first men of his age, and you have not yet done him justice. Try him by that test to which he sought in vain to stimulate the vulgar and selfish spirit of Napoleon; class him among the men who, to compare and seat themselves, must take in the compass of all ages; turn back your eyes upon the records of time; summon from the creation of the world to this day the mighty dead of every age and every clime—and where, among the race of merely mortal men, shall one be found who, as the benefactor of his kind, shall claim to take precedence of Lafayette 2
There have doubtless been in all ages men whose discoveries or inventions, in the world of matter or of mind, have opened new avenues to the dominion of man over the material creation ; have increased his means or his faculties of enjoyment; have raised him in nearer approximation to that higher and happier condition, the object of his hopes and aspirations in his present state of existence.
Lafayette discovered no new principle of politics or morals. He invented nothing in science. He disclosed no new phenomenon in the laws of nature. Born and educated in the highest order of feudal nobility, under the most absolute monarchy of Europe, in possession of an affluent fortune, and master of himself and of all his capabilities at the moment of attaining manhood, the principle of republican justice and of social equality took possession of his heart and mind, as if by inspiration from